KHS Builds Respect at International Robotics Competition

The Kearney High School Robotics team got to put their creations to the test in the FIRST Robotics Greater KC Regional Competition on March 30-April 1 at Lee’s Summit North High School.

Each January, FIRST Robotics releases a new contest that consists of two or three challenges, according to team sponsor Justin Leon. Students are then tasked to design, build, code and test a robot that can complete those challenges. The more challenges they can complete in a 2:30-minute period, the more points they can earn for their team. Whichever team has the most points at the end of the period wins.

This year, the KHS contingent had roughly 10 weeks to engineer a robot that could pick up traffic cones and inflatable cubes from the floor and from a table, and then place them on various poles and shelves at different heights. At the end of the game, the team also had to find a way to get their robot on a charging station that is basically a giant teeter-totter. There was also an autonomous period, where the team had to program the robot to drive itself for the first 15 seconds of the match.

“There is no kit or instruction guide to go from,” Mr. Leon said. “Students have to learn, research, and find effective solutions. Our team was successfully able to complete all of these challenges at the competition.”

At the competition, the team was able to see their hard work payoff as they hung around the middle of the pack each day. Out of 36 high schools, Team 2345 – Animal Control bounced around 15th place most of the event.

There were teams from Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois and even two from Brazil. Many schools were much larger than Kearney. Many schools had more than 40 students on their team. KHS had nine students.

The team fought hard and held their own throughout the competition. They ended the qualification matches, splitting even with six wins and six losses. Two of the losses were decided by three points or less. Ultimately, the team saw its season come to a close after the qualification round, barely missing the playoffs.

“Despite the tough ending, there was plenty to be proud of from this year,” Leon said. “There was a lot of hours and hard work that the students put to prepare for this competition, and all that worked paid off.”

With some new and up-to-date tools and technology, the KHS students were able to build a high-quality robot that never quit. The team successfully learned and implemented a new coding language, switching from Labview to Java. The team also learned a new drive system that was faster and more efficient.

The Bulldogs also took ownership and rebranded their team by creating a new logo, t-shirts, flyers, and banners. The team was also grateful for the numerous sponsors and grants they received this year: Kearney Education Foundation, KC STEM Alliance, Chris Shipley Excavating, Smart Warehousing, Kearney Trust Company, North Kearney Storage, Bulldog Rental and Sales, Total Plumbing, and Tim Cole Printing.